December 21st has come and gone and days are slowly getting longer. This is good news for anyone who has seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression, that hits people in the fall and continues into winter. Because this depressive disorder typically runs through the holidays, people often chalk up their elder’s lack of energy and moodiness to the holidays and winter blues. But that is not always the case and getting a diagnosis is important.
Along with symptoms associated with depression, like losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating and having low energy, some symptoms specific to SAD may include:
- Oversleeping (hypersomnia)
- Overeating, particularly with a craving for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Social withdrawal (feeling like “hibernating”)
Because depression is a serious and growing mental health problem for older people, we need to pinpoint the cause and not assume that it is a natural part of aging. Fortunately, for anyone suffering from seasonal affective disorder, simple interventions in the environment can help.
The easiest treatment to implement for SAD is getting more sunlight. Spending time outdoors and/or increasing the sunlight in your home can improve symptoms. If getting outside in these months is too difficult for your elder, bright light therapy (phototherapy) uses a special lamp with full spectrum light bulbs to treat SAD indoors.
Although your elder may want to hibernate, it is important to exercise and stay social. A walk in the mall if the weather is bad, followed by lunch with friends along with eating a well-balanced diet will support them during these months.
Springpoint at Home’s Aging Life Care Advisors ™/Care Manager Team monitor your elder’s energy and mood during these months. They will find resources to keep them active and social. Relationships build in wonderful ways as your loved one gets to know their Aging Life Care Advisor ™/Care Manager during visits. If interventions are needed, they have the means to find a cognitive behavior therapist or a doctor to determine if antidepressant medication is appropriate.
Feeling “blue” during the holidays does happen, but seasonal affective disorder is much more than simply being moody or feeling blue. Isolation and loneliness are big contributors. Springpoint at Home’s Certified Home Health Aides act as wonderful companions while helping your loved one with their daily needs. Let the Springpoint at Home team help find simple interventions and encourage your loved one to use them.